Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wait for the count.

Not Dracula. Not Godot. I’ve got more karate/voice-over parallels on my mind, so please indulge me. I’ll get right to the point and put the karate origins of this thought at the end, so you voice-over types can skip that part if you want to.

When you go to a studio for an audition or recording session with a new client, or if you do one live, from your own studio by phone patch or ISDN, do you immediately start chattering your head off about things of interest to you? Like what a bear it was getting to the studio because you didn’t sleep well and the kids overslept and missed the school bus and there wasn’t any bread so there was nothing for lunch and….? Of course not. You’re ready to work, aren’t you? You go in, exchange a few pleasantries perhaps to remind each other of your mutual humanity, and get down to business. Perhaps the engineer or director has something on his or her mind and feels like chatting with you about it, but your assumption should be that they too are there to work and would like to get at it expeditiously. So you get to the script and wait for direction. Keep your mouth shut except when it’s clear that it’s time to open it.

If you make a mistake in your read, you can either keep going or stop and ask, “where shall I pick up?” Skip the self deprecating comments, resist the temptation to joke about it, just pick up as directed and go on. Wait for instruction about the next take, ask questions if you need to, and stick to business. Make your thank-yous and skedaddle. Obviously, as you get to know a client you will judge for yourself what is an appropriate level of familiarity and talkativeness. But at first, assume that it’s your job to “shut up and talk”.

Out there in the world, this is also a good rule to live by. You encounter many people in the course of the day – bosses, co-workers, teachers, friends, maybe even law enforcement agents (e.g. if you get pulled over – oh dear). Maybe you didn’t complete an assignment on time or you forgot about a meeting or lunch date. Don’t make excuses. Maybe a close friend wants to hear just how bad your weekend was (although don’t make a habit of running on about such things), but you gotta assume that the average acquaintance or encounter does not want to hear your stuff. Apologise, explain briefly, if an explanation is appropriate, and move on. Really. You will get far more respect if you keep the excuses to yourself. When you hear the echoes of those excuses reverberating in the air, I think you’ll know what I mean. You’ll also respect yourself more if you just don’t say them.

So where does the karate connection come in? (oh, right - bye kids - see you later - thanks for stopping by the blog!)

In karate, we all take turns counting for kata or individual techniques performed as an exercise. In between counts, we wait. Breathe. We know what move comes next, but we don’t anticipate it, because In karate there is no first strike (Karate ni sente nashi). You don’t start a fight, you only use your art to defend yourself if someone attacks you. In class, performing kata, we are moving through a choreographed series of offensive and defensive moves against an imaginary opponent, and even though we know ahead of time what the moves are, we wait for the count. The count represents the opponent. The discipline we develop by waiting for the count prepares us for the discipline of a fight in which we wait for the opponent to strike first. There is no sense in blocking a punch that has not been thrown (just like there is no sense in making an excuse when nobody asked you why you were late or why the roast is overcooked or why you made that mistake in your read).

I wrote the following “Thought of the Week” 3 years ago for the Shorin Ryu Karate USA website :

In an orchestra the musicians are obliged to await their cues before playing their parts. Independence is counterproductive in such a setting, as it distracts the other performers, it is disrespectful to the conductor, and it causes the symphony to fall apart. When one is performing kata, independence is similarly pernicious. It may cause other karateka to lose focus, and it is discourteous to the person responsible for the count (the “conductor”). Each movement in a kata or kihon technique should be the only one that exists at that moment, and in between, no skeletal muscles should move except for those associated with respiration. The count represents the opponent’s move, and only when it comes can we know what move is required of us. To move too soon could be fatal. Wait for the count.

Wait for your cue.

Shut up and talk.

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